When nine-year-old Bruno comes home from school one day, he is surprised to find the maid, Maria, packing up all his belongings. He tries to remember if he has done anything “particularly naughty” in the past few days that would warrant him being sent away as a punishment. He asks his mother, “a tall woman with long red hair that she bundle into a sort of net behind her head,” what is going on. He is somewhat relieved to notice that her things are being packed, too, by Lars the Butler.

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Bruno’s mother goes into the large dining room, where the Fury, accompanied by a beautiful blond woman, had come to dinner the week before. Bruno notices that Mother’s eyes are “more red than usual” as she tells him that the whole family will be going on “a great adventure.”

Mother explains that the Fury has “big things in mind” for his father and is sending him to a place where there is “a very special job that needs doing.” Bruno has never been entirely sure what his father does; unlike his friends, whose fathers are ordinary workers like greengrocers or teachers or chefs, Bruno knows only that his father wears a “fantastic uniform” and that there are always other men in uniforms and women with typewriters visiting him in his office, which is “Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions.”

Bruno’s discomfiture is intensified when he learns that the place to which they will be going is quite far away. The family’s house in Berlin will be closed up for the present, and Bruno will not be able to return to his school. Bruno is particularly upset that he will have to say goodbye to Karl and Daniel and Martin, who are his “three best friends for life.” When he protests, his mother first tries to reason with him. She says that in light of all the recent changes in the city, it might be safer if they move away. When this argument fails to convince Bruno, she snaps at him,...

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